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My six stages of writing (including the one in which I hide from Neil Gaiman’s rage)

March 12, 2013

There seem to be a number of mental states that I go through whenever I’m writing something new. They progress fairly regularly, and are as follows:

  1. Phase one usually sets in after the first couple of pages are written, and goes like this: Holy crap, this story is going to be amazing. This is the best idea in the history of story ideas. I am a genius at writing things. Where am I going put the many prizes that are sure to be piled upon me once this is published? 
  2. Phase two generally comes on after I’ve been working on the story for a couple of days: Hmmm, wait, what the hell was I thinking when I wrote this yesterday? That doesn’t really work the way I thought it did. No problem, I’ll fix it in editing. Oh, and I only really have space for a couple of awards anyway, so it’s cool if this one only gains a medium sized cult following. It’s about the art, man.
  3. Phase three is where some doubts start to creep in, and tends to come once I get deep into the middle of a story: Um, yeah. So I’m going to need to rewrite those first bunch of pages completely. It’s a good thing I haven’t sold this yet, because I would totally miss any deadlines if I had them. No big deal though, a personal tale of struggle will sound good in that Writer’s Digest interview I’m sure to have to give someday.
  4. Phase four is probably the worst. All right, not probably. It inevitably comes when I get to a place in the story where I have no clue what will happen next. It’s not pretty: Kill me. Who am I kidding? I’m a total fraud. This story is complete nonsense; and if Neil Gaiman were to see me faking my way through this, he’d imagine into being a prison like they put General Zod into in Superman II – but for fake writers (if anyone can do it, Neil Gaiman can) – and he’d lock me away inside of it for all eternity so that my terrible writing couldn’t somehow infect the rest of the real writers in the world like Neil Gaiman and destroy all of fiction entirely…
  5. Phase five is me coming in off the ledge a little bit. It happens once I power through phase four either by resolving the problems I see, or just accepting them and figuring I can probably fix them later… maybe: Okay, look, so this story isn’t as great as I wanted it to be right now. Don’t sweat it. This is actually a good thing because I still need the practice anyway. And there’s bound to be someone who will read it and really enjoy it; or, at the very least, I can give it to Mom and she’ll tell me that I’m her favorite son (that I’m her only son is irrelevant to this phase).
  6. Phase six is the last phase, and I fully admit I don’t always get there. It comes when I get very near to the end of a story: Phew, this was rewarding after all. I mean, you know, it’s probably not the best thing I’ve ever written or will ever write; but I still had fun along the way – except for the few hours I was hiding behind the couch to escape Neil Gaiman’s inter-dimensional writer’s prison. I’m glad I did this, even if I don’t win those awards for it… yet.

So there they are – the six stages of mental weirdness that happen to me when I’m trying to write a new story. As I mentioned in my previous post, the story I’m working on now is progressing nicely. However, I’m just about getting to phase three with it. There are some noticeable issues with it that will need to be fixed. It’s cool though because personal stories about struggle sound really great in interviews, right?

Of course, pretty soon I’ll be seriously trying to avoid the trap that Neil Gaiman is going to set for me. He may be brilliant when it comes to “writing stuff,” but I’m on to his plot to send me spinning off into deep space in a weird one sided portal thing. I’ll be back to write another day, Gaiman. And there’s nothing you can do about it!

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